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PRESS RELEASE
9-30-13

EEOC Sues Farmers Insurance for Race Bias in the Firing of Asian-American Claims Representatives

Insurance  Giant Also Discharged Caucasian in Retaliation for Providing Testimony During  the Discrimination Investigation, Federal Agency Charges

FRESNO,  Calif. - Farmers Insurance Exchange violated federal law when it fired two Southeast  Asian-American  employees due to their race, and then unlawfully fired a third non-Asian  employee in retaliation for his participation in the EEOC's investigation, the  U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it  filed today. 

Two  of the claimants are of Hmong descent and were the only Asian-American  employees working at the insurance company's Fresno office at the time of their  termination in March 2009.  According to  the EEOC, a supervisor had instructed staff at the Fresno office to code  insurance payments in a manner so as to avoid the automated prompting of customer  surveys.  A 2009 audit revealed that  several of the claims representatives in the Fresno office had instances of  improper coding.  However, the EEOC  contends that only the Asian-American claims representatives at that location  were targeted for termination.  A claims  adjuster, who is Caucasian,  actually had a similar  number of cases coded, but was not terminated in March 2009 -- until he  provided testimony during the EEOC's investigation into the discrimination charges.  This claims adjuster was placed on leave a  week after he was interviewed by the EEOC. 

Race  discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate the Title VII  of the Civil Rights Act.  The EEOC filed  its suit against Farmers Insurance Exchange in the U.S. District Court for the  Eastern District of California (EEOC v.  Farmers Insurance Exchange, Case No. 1:13-cv-01574 AWI SKO), after first attempting to  reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The EEOC's suit seeks back pay, compensatory  and punitive damages for the alleged victims.

"Generally,  Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders seldom come forward to report discrim­ination,"  said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which  includes Central California in its jurisdiction.  "The EEOC is here to help victims of illegal  discrimination and to ensure that employers treat workers equally.  Our hope is that more will find the courage  to come forward to break the cycle of discrimination at work." 

Melissa  Barrios, local director of the EEOC's Fresno Local Office, added, "Federal law  protects employees who participate in investigations or proceedings involving  employment discrim­ination from retaliation.   Workers have the right to provide testimony or protest discrimination  without negative employment consequences."

According  to its website, www.farmers.com,  Farmers Insurance Exchange is one of the insurers comprising Farmers Insurance  Group, one of the largest insurers of vehicles, homes and small businesses.  Farmers Insurance Group serves 10 million  households across 50 states with nearly 24,000 employees.

Eliminating  discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of  their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them  is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic  Enforcement Plan (SEP).  These policies  can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking.

The  EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment  discrimination.  Further information is  available at www.eeoc.gov.